Northern Shade Gardening

Fragrant Dianthus

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 Category: Perennials

Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Grenadin’ (carnations) have a wonderful scent that floats on the breeze around the garden right now. These are good-looking perennials with vivid blooms, and attractive grassy foliage.

dianthus caryophyllus grenadin (carnations)The carnations get a part shade site, with more sun than shade, but still they lean a bit, and would probably appreciate even more light. One maple tree branch has grown, and casts more of a shadow over this bed this year. I’m going to have to cut the branch back. These perennials like it sunny. Despite the partial shade, they are being good sports, and are covered in blooms.

Carnatons have a memorable fragrance. Even a half dozen plants are enough to send their perfume over this section of the garden. In early summer I was disappointed when my peonies finished blooming, thinking that the last of my favourite scented flowers were finished. However, the Dianthus are blooming now, and they provide their own sensory delight. Their delightful scent is as intense as their blossom colour.

The flowers of these Dianthus caryophyllus are a rich dark pink. The colour is so vivid, that I had trouble getting good pictures of these plants. My unaltered photos kept looking like I had turned the saturation up to a surreal setting in a photo editor. I’ve actually been taking shots of them for a couple of weeks, in different lighting, but these were the most natural looking I could take.  Most of my photos gave them an unnatural day-glo look, not like the real blooms. I have some carnations that are extra puffy doubles, like the ones below, and some that appear semi-double like the ones above.

Dianthus caryophyllus \'Grenadin\' (carnations)
The leaves of D. caryophyllus are long and very narrow with a bluish grey colour. The foliage makes a nice contrast to other solid green leaf tones and more rounded shaped leaves. Although when the flowers start to bloom, the foliage is not nearly as noticeable.

These perennials fade out after 2 or 3 years in my garden, so I divide them or plant new ones every few years. It’s not so much the cold, as they are just naturally shorter lived plants. You could also take cuttings to keep them going. They will not grace the garden with permanence like the peony that grows behind them, but I admire their splendid flowers and perfume.

You can read about some more fragrant plants in an earlier post. There are some photos and information about these pink carnations combined with some blue bellflowers in this post.

Perennial carnations are an old fashioned plant that have many good qualities. They have a pleasing fragrance, pretty flowers, and slender grey toned leaves. I used to grow Dianthus plumarius (cottage pinks) too, but the last ones died out now. Do you grow any types of Dianthus?

Double Flowering Campanula

Sunday, July 27, 2008 Category: Perennials

Campanula haylodgensis (Haylodge bellflower)

Campanula ‘Haylodgensis’ is a pretty bellflower with double blue flowers. I’m not sure if it is fully hardy in zone 3, but I’ll know by next spring. The zone recommendations for this perennial seem variable. [Update: the Campanula 'Haylodgensis' survived the zone 3 winter and are covered in buds the next season.]

Campanula ‘Haylodgensis’ is a cross between C. cochlearifolia (fairy thimble bellflower) and C. carpatica (Carpathian bellflower). It resembles C. cochlearifolia ‘Elizabeth Oliver’, being a low growing bellflower about 10 cm (4 in.) tall. The flowers are a similar light sky blue colour. However, they are slightly larger, more open, and have more petals than ‘Elizabeth Oliver’. Here’s a photo of an Elizabeth Oliver plant for comparison. You can read more  about ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ in this previous post.Campanula cochlearifolia \'Elizabeth Oliver\' (fairy thimble bellflower)

I’ve only had the Haylodge bellflower in my garden for a month now, but it has already becoming one of my favourite bellflowers. The flowers have a true blue colour, and being a double, they are very showy. I’m not sure of the blooming length yet, but I hope it has a long flowering time, similar to its 2 parents.

Campanula ‘Haylodgensis’ is a charming, elfin flower with a beautiful colour. I hope this perennial makes it through the winter, so I might throw an extra armload of leaves over it in the fall. Since it is a cross between 2 Campanula which do survive our cold winters, I’m optimistic about its chances.

Campanula haylodgensis (Haylodge bellflower) closeup

There is more information and pictures of another double flowering bellflower in this post.

Here is an updated post about how  Campanula ‘Haylodgensis’ survived the zone 3 winter and how well it has been doing.

Feathery Astilbe

Saturday, July 26, 2008 Category: Perennials

Astilbe arendsii \'Diamont and Astilbe \'Europa\'

More Astilbe plumes are opening in the shade garden now.  The white feathery flowers of Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ (diamond astilbe) glow in the shadows, and the pink flowers of Astilbe simplicifolia “Hennie Graafland’ look like spun cotton candy. Astilbe ‘Europa’ started the bloom show with soft pink flowers.

You could plant these astilbe in a sunnier area to get more flowers, but in the coolness of the shadows, with a little mulch around them, the foliage stays healthy without having to quench their thirst constantly. Also, their ability to reflect light is valuable in the shade.

Astilbe arendsii \'Diamont\' closeupMost of the A. arendsii ‘Diamant’ flower stalks are open now. Their pure white flowers are highly visible from a distance, even at dusk. When I take a look out the window at the garden after sundown, these plumes still reflect the last wisps of light.

Sometimes this plant is marketed as  Astilbe ‘Diamond’. It is my tallest astilbe, about 30 cm (1 foot) taller than the pink flowered Astilbe ‘Europa’.  Diamant starts blooming  a little after Europa, but their flowering times overlap. I wrote more about Europa in a previous post.

After about 3 weeks the flowers gradually turn brown, but they are still interesting. I leave the faded plumes on the plants until next spring.

The leaves are attractive, and look nice combined with the finer textured fronds of ferns, or with broader leaves.

Astilbe simplicifolia \'Hennie Graafland\'

Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Hennie Graafland’ is a medium sized astilbe, about the same height as ‘Europa’. The flowers have darker centres, giving them a brighter, more saturated look than ‘Europa’. The cotton candy plumes on these are just beginning to open from the bottom.  In a few days, they will be as fluffy as the other astilbe. Despite being in a medium shady area, getting maybe an hour of direct sun, this perennial gets a good number of plumes. The flowers in the bottom picture are all on one plant, though there are 2 other Hennie Graafland behind in the clump.

Astilbe simplicifolia \'Hennie Graafland\' glossy foliageThe extra glossy, dark green leaves are what I like most about Hennie Graafland. In the shade garden, the shiny foliage is very showy, and contrasts nicely with more matte textured leaves. Since the plumes bloom bright for about 3 weeks, it looks decorative to have the polished looking foliage for the rest of the season.

I always look forward to the astilbe blooms in the shadows, but their attractive foliage is around until frost. They don’t seem to be bothered by any pests or diseases in my garden. This perennial is an excellent plant for the shade, and hardy in zone 3.

Here is some more information and photos about astilbe in this followup post.